The First Time I Almost Died

**Disclaimer: I’m going to discuss illegal drugs in this post, ghosts, and other fucked up shit.**

A while ago, I was talking to Ann and told her that she knew most of my deep dark secrets already.  I’d written about them and she had read all my posts.  Well, she asked what stories I hadn’t written about.  This is one of them.  I am only writing this to keep this blog as honest as possible.  I write about the good, the questionable… I guess now it’s time to write about the fucked up.

I was introduced to freebasing cocaine when I was nineteen by a couple crazy friends.  We were all losers that just hung out, drank, and did drugs.  Freebasing was the new thing and they eagerly showed me what I had been missing.  I’d tried a variety of drugs before, but nothing hooked me like smoking cocaine did.

The high was like nothing I’d ever felt before, one second I was normal Clark Kent, the next I was fucking SUPERMAN!  It only lasted for 15-20 minutes and then it just turned into a nervous insomnia, but those minutes were so amazing that nothing else in the world seemed to matter.  Imagine winning a billion dollars, getting laid by five super models (male or female, depending on your preference), having a record breaking orgasm, finding out you’re going to live an extra hundred years and nothing bad will ever happen to anyone you know… that would about 1/10th how good it felt.  And, knowing that nothing else would ever make me feel that good, I was immediately on a quest to find more.  Once you’re that high, nothing else comes close to satisfying.

I had just dropped out of college because I felt like I was throwing money away.  I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, so paying to go to school -with no idea what kind of career I wanted to get into- felt like getting in debt for nothing.  I was back to living with my parents, which was horrible because my relationship with my Mom was worse than ever.  My long distance relationship with Anne (not to be confused with Ann St. Vincent), my high school sweet heart had just fallen apart… coke was the only thing I looked forward to.

About six months into my addiction I was in a bad place.  I basically quit doing anything except coke and working crap jobs to pay for the coke.  Anything else, like friends, music, or family, just got in the way of my drug habit.  Every dime I made went into buying more coke.  I worked and did drugs, that was it.  I would often go 2-3 days without sleeping, which lead to hallucinations even when I wasn’t actually high.  I would be stopped at a light and suddenly all the cars around me were moving, I would start to press the gas before realizing the light was still red and it was all in my head.  Other times I heard voices or sounds that weren’t actually there.  The only time I actually slept was when I ran out of money.  As soon as pay-day rolled around, no more sleep for young Johnny until I was broke again.

One night, I had just bought another bag and gotten home.  Not wanting to wake my parents by going inside, I went into the open garage and started smoking it.  I got really, really high.  I would suck in the smoke and hold it for as long as possible.  Two or three times I actually passed out from holding my breath for so long.  I had been standing and suddenly woke up, my face in the gravel.  Then I stood up and did it all over again.

A little while later, I decided to go up to my room to finish the bag.

That night was really strange, after I ran out of coke I was up for several hours talking to ghosts.  There were quite a few in the room with me that night.  Before you ask, I hadn’t seen ghosts like that before or after (that I remember anyway, though I do have a couple other ghost stories), but they were friendly enough.  To this day, I don’t know if I was really talking to ghosts or if I was just hallucinating, but the story gets weirder.

I started to nod off a couple times.  This wasn’t that unusual, I’d been up for days and even on coke I would drift off sometimes, though it was a very shallow state of sleep that didn’t involve actually resting.  I vividly remember these three old women ghosts kept waking me up.  They kept telling me that I couldn’t go to sleep.  I would nod off and they would wake me up.  I don’t remember the other ghosts very clearly, but those three stuck in my mind.  This happened for the rest of the night.

When I finally got up for work I was exhausted.  I went into the bathroom and noticed something strange about my neck.  It was all puffed up.  I basically had no jaw line anymore.  When I felt the swollen area it was almost like my neck was wrapped in bubble wrap, thousands of tiny bubbles under the skin.  When I tried to talk I sounded like Kermit the frog.

My mom was obviously freaked out when I showed her and insisted on taking me to the doctor.  I called in to work and my normally cranky boss quickly gave me the day off when he heard my voice.

We went to the clinic and saw our GP.  He explained that I had somehow torn a hole in my throat and air leaked had leaked into the surrounding tissue.  He was very frank about how easily the condition could have killed me.  The accumulating bubbles built up pressure, if the tear hadn’t closed when it did my wind pipe would have collapsed and I would have suffocated.  The tear had already closed, so it wasn’t going to get any worse, but there wasn’t anything they could do except let the air dissolve on it’s own.  It was a really uncommon injury, both him and my mother were very curious how it could have happened.

I told them I had been wrestling with a group of friends the night before.  We were always rough housing, so it wasn’t a hard lie to sell.  But in my head I was remembering those times that I passed out standing and woke up in the gravel.  I had taken some hard hits to the head and even had some scratches on my face.  I thought about months of cocaine use eating away at the lining of my throat.  I also thought of those three old ghosts that kept waking me up all night.  Had they helped keep me alive?  If I had fallen asleep, would I have woken up?

For the next three days I took it easy and gradually the swelling went down.  I also quit cocaine… for about a week.

I would love to lie at this point and tell you that almost dying was what got me off drugs, but it wasn’t.  Even after that close encounter with the grim reaper, once I was healed up I went back to coke like it was a favorite mistress.  My home life still sucked, my relationships sucked, all the factors that led me to doing coke were still there… and I went back to it, though I was a little more careful about how and where I was doing it.  No more passing out and falling on my head.

Six months later my dealer got busted for stealing cash from his work place.  He was an addict as well as a dealer, which is the only explanation.  He went to jail for six months and I used that opportunity to get clean again.  That was also around the same time that Cat came back into my life.  We had dated for a while in High School until she dumped me, so she was kind of “the one that got away” for me.  We met up again that summer after my dealer was busted and started dating again.  So I had some other motivation to stay clean as well.

It wasn’t easy.  Even now, fourteen years later, the “pleasure” nodes of my brain light up when I think about coke.  I haven’t touched it since, and I have no desire to, but it’s a reminder of how powerful and dangerous the drug is.  It almost ruined my life, almost took my life, and still I wanted it.


14 thoughts on “The First Time I Almost Died

  1. I tried coke once. Just once. It was fucking brilliant – I really don’t think words can describe it adequately. I never tried it again. When I came down I knew, knew that I wanted it…and that scared the shit out of me.

  2. Yeah coke us super expensive in Australia and its real shitty, totally not worth it. Same as ecstasy. Prescription pills arent popular/common here and our speed is cheap and nasty. Maybe that’s why we love alcohol so much? 😀

    So glad to hear you got away from an addiction though, nothing should be done in excess! Except cheese. Mmmmmmm cheese.

  3. This is exactly why I won’t try heroin.

    I love drugs, but I didn’t like cocaine. The first time I tried it, my husband gave it to me and told me that it is his favorite drug (for the record, mine is LSD 😉 ). *I* thought it was totally lame — which is probably a good thing. We did it a couple times after that, and he was totally into it, but I wasn’t… It didn’t do anything for me. Maybe it was because I didn’t try coke until after I had been doing meth for over a year; it just didn’t “do it” for me like that…

    In order for me to quit the meth, I moved half-way across the country and got my husband away from his dealer. Because, as long as he had access to it, he would always buy it. And, as long as he was giving it to me, I would always do it (I’m doing better with some of my impulse control issues. Yay!). Incidentally, six months after we moved, his dealer was convicted of embezzling over $45,000 from the non-profit for which she was the Treasurer.

    Since we moved to Colorado, I have changed so much. I still like drugs, but I understand what I can and can’t handle. No more meth! I even avoid those crazy diet pills that “speed” me up because it feels too much like the way meth used to make me feel.

    Good for you, Johnny!! I am glad those ghosts were there to keep you with us.
    How many near death experiences have you had?!?!

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